Boris Johnson may not have fully disappeared from politics, but in a recent photo tweeted by the Business Secretary the former prime minister appeared to have performed a vanishing act.
Grant Shapps, tweeting in advance of the rocket launch from Spaceport Cornwall, spoke of his delight at backing the first-ever launch of a satellite from European soil.
However, it was the photo that accompanied the tweet which drew the most attention, as it appeared to show Mr Shapps enjoying a solitary visit to the Spaceport.
Social media users were quick to notice that Mr Johnson appeared to have been digitally erased, or photoshopped, from the picture.
An identical photo remains on the Number 10 Flickr account, dated June 9 2021.
It shows the then-Conservative leader, brow furrowed and arm raised, wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words “Prime Minister”.
Mr Shapps subsequently deleted his tweet after the apparent editing was spotted.
The original picture showed Mr Johnson and Mr Shapps standing side by side during a visit to LauncherOne in Cornwall.
A source close to Mr Shapps said: “Grant wasn’t aware anyone had edited the picture. He removed it as soon as it was pointed out. Obviously he wouldn’t endorse anyone rewriting history by removing the former PM from a picture.”
We’re happy to report we’ll have the @NatReconOfc onboard a joint mission between the UK and the US later this year in a historic flight out of @SpaceCornwall! This will be the first-ever orbital launch from British soil.🚀 More: https://t.co/EWX5IPXBdy pic.twitter.com/sHVKpOKJAm
— Virgin Orbit (@VirginOrbit) June 29, 2022
The launch attempt on Tuesday morning ended in failure after suffering an “anomaly” during the flight.
After taking off from Cornwall, the Virgin Orbit plane flew to 35,000ft over the Atlantic Ocean where it jettisoned the rocket containing nine small satellites towards space.
Organisers of the Start Me Up mission said the rocket – with a variety of civil and defence applications – failed to orbit.
After the launch failed, Mr Shapps told Sky News: “Space is difficult. Everyone’s used to seeing rockets which explode from Japan, what have you.
“The great thing about this technology is that no-one was harmed. The pilots came back in the aircraft.
“It didn’t work. I’ve no doubt that they’ll pick themselves up, dust themselves off and they’ll go again once they find out what exactly went wrong with it.”
Mr Shapps said he did not know the time schedule for another possible attempt.
“It was a big moment nonetheless yesterday,” he added.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been contacted for comment.